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Daily Archives: 06/08/2010

Helen Thomas ends White House career amid uproar


June 8, 2010

Photostream : Veteran White House Journalist Helen Thomas

(ETAIWANNEWS) Helen Thomas, the opinionated White House correspondent who used her seat in the front row of history to grill 10 presidents and often exasperate them, lost her storied perch Monday in a flap over saying Israelis should get “out of Palestine.”

Thomas, 89, who made her name as a bulldog for United Press International and was a pioneer for women in journalism, abruptly retired as a columnist for Hearst News Service. The announcement, in a terse statement by Hearst, came after videotaped remarks she made to an independent filmmaker spread virally through the Internet.

She apologized, but White House spokesman Robert Gibbs denounced her comments as “offensive and reprehensible.” Her press corps colleagues with the White House Correspondents Association issued a rare admonishment calling them “indefensible.”

Thomas, a daughter of Lebanese immigrants, joined UPI in 1943 and began covering the White House for the wire service in 1960. Fiercely competitive, she became the first female White House bureau chief for a news service when UPI named her to the position in 1974. She also was the first female officer at the National Press Club, where women had once been barred as members.

“Helen was just a vacuum cleaner about information,” said author Kay Mills, who took dictation from Thomas as a young UPI staffer and wrote “A Place in the News: From the Women’s Pages to the Front Page.”

“She made sure she had everything,” Mills said. “She may have been covering Jackie Kennedy and a birthday party for one of the children, but I’ll tell you, the desk had every bit of information it ever needed.”

When the Watergate scandal began consuming President Richard M. Nixon’s presidency, Martha Mitchell, the notoriously unguarded wife of the attorney general, would call Thomas late at night to unload her frustrations at what she saw as the betrayal of her husband, John, by the president’s men.

Thomas retained her place on the front row of the White House briefing room after joining Hearst in 2000 and remained persistent to the point of badgering.

She aggressively questioned President George W. Bush and his press secretaries about the war in Iraq, which many of Bush’s supporters said would make Israel safer by ridding the Middle East of Saddam Hussein.

She gave President Barack Obama similar handling about Afghanistan. This exchange occurred two weeks ago:

“Mr. President, when are you going to get out of Afghanistan? Why are you continuing to kill and die there? What is the real excuse? And don’t give us this Bushism, `If we don’t go there, they’ll all come here,'” she said.

Former Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said journalists had expressed privately their discomfort over Thomas’ role with what they perceived as her advocacy from a plum spot in the White House press room.

“Helen had a special stature that she earned,” he said. “That’s what’s so sad, in that she diminished what she earned.”

Her retirement was set in motion by a website, rabbilive.com, that relaunched only last week after having previously existed to beam religious services to military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rabbi David Nesenoff, an independent filmmaker from Long Island who runs the website, said he approached Thomas outside the White House after being there for Jewish Heritage Day on May 27. He said he was there with his teenage son and a friend, who were both wearing yarmulkes, and approached Thomas to talk.

He asked whether she had any comments on Israel. “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she replied.

“Remember, these people are occupied, and it’s their land. It’s not Germany, it’s not Poland,” she continued. Asked where they should go, she answered, “They should go home.”

“Where’s home?” Nesenoff asked.

“Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else,” Thomas replied.

Thomas had been scheduled to speak at the June 14 graduation of Walt Whitman High School in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Maryland, but Principal Alan Goodwin wrote in a Sunday e-mail to students and parents that she was being replaced.

“Graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness,” Goodwin wrote.

Writing on her website Monday, Thomas said, “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

She added: “They do not reflect my heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”

In an interview, Nesenoff said his website has received more than 1 million hits since the interview was posted last week.

“It wasn’t angrily said. It was just said. It was insulting and hurtful,” he said of Thomas’ comments.

He said he has another excerpt that will probably be posted soon, although he would not reveal what was said.

A statement signed by officers of the White House Correspondents Association said: “Many in our profession who have known Helen for years were saddened by the comments, which were especially unfortunate in light of her role as a trail blazer on the White House beat.”

Time and again, Thomas issued a caveat about her work: “In my career you’re only as good as your last story.”

In her case, that last story turned out to be about her.  (*)

Photostream : Veteran White House Journalist Helen Thomas


WASHINGTON – JUNE 07: The center seat on the front row of the Brady Press Briefing Room (L) is assigned to veteran Hearst Newspapers journalist Helen Thomas sits empty in the West Wing of the White House June 7, 2010 in Washington, DC. Thomas retired Monday after making remarks in May suggesting that Israeli Jews should get the hell out of Palestine and return to Germany and Poland or wherever they came from. Often called the ‘Dean of the White House Press Corps,’ Thomas, 89, has covered the White House since 1960 after reporting on John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign


WASHINGTON – JUNE 07: The empty center seat on the front row of the Brady Press Briefing Room is assigned to veteran Hearst Newspapers journalist Helen Thomas in the West Wing of the White House June 7, 2010 in Washington, DC. Thomas retired Monday after making remarks in May suggesting that Israeli Jews should get the hell out of Palestine and return to Germany and Poland or wherever they came from. Often called the ‘Dean of the White House Press Corps,’ Thomas, 89, has covered the White House since 1960 after reporting on John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign.


WASHINGTON – MAY 27: (FILE PHOTO) Veteran reporter Helen Thomas (C) asks a question to U.S. President Barack Obama during a news conference at the East Room of the White House May 27, 2010 in Washington, DC. Thomas, 89, announced her retirement as a columnist for Hearst News Service June 7, 2010 after controversial comments she made about Israel created an uproar.


Veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas asks a question of President Barack Obama during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, in this photo taken Thursday, May 27, 2010. Thomas abruptly retired Monday as a columnist for Hearst News Service following remarks she made about Israel that were denounced by the White House and her press corps colleagues.


WASHINGTON – NOVEMBER 12: (FILE PHOTO) Veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas listens during the White House daily briefing at the White House briefing room November 12, 2008 in Washington, DC. Thomas, 89, announced her retirement as a columnist for Hearst News Service June 7, 2010 after controversial comments she made about Israel created an uproar.


Hearst White House columnist Helen Thomas poses a question to. U.S. President Barack Obama during his first news conference as president in the East Room of the White House in Washington in this February 9, 2009 file photo. Thomas, who has covered every U.S. president since John F. Kennedy, abruptly retired on June 7, 2010 amid a storm of criticism over her controversial remarks about Israel. Picture taken February 9, 2009.


WASHINGTON – MAY 01: Reporter Helen Thomas (C) arrives at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on May 1, 2010 in Washington, DC. The annual dinner featured comedian Jay Leno and was attended by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.


FILE – In this March 30, 2010 file photo, Helen Thomas sits next to Bill Plante of CBS in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Thomas abruptly retired Monday, according to her employer, Hearst News Service.


WASHINGTON – AUGUST 2: (FILE PHOTO) Senior White House Correspondent Helen Thomas reads the newspaper while sitting in her chair in the White House press room August 2, 2006 in Washington, DC. Thomas, 89, announced her retirement as a columnist for Hearst News Service June 7, 2010 after controversial comments she made about Israel created an uproar.


WASHINGTON – AUGUST 04: U.S. (FILE PHOTO) President Barack Obama (R) kisses White House veteran correspondent Helen Thomas (L) as he brings surprise birthday cupcakes to celebrate her birthday in the White House briefing room August 4, 2009 in Washington, DC. Thomas, 89, announced her retirement as a columnist for Hearst News Service June 7, 2010 after controversial comments she made about Israel created an uproar.


U.S. President Barack Obama puts his arm around Hearst White House columnist Helen Thomas after presenting her with cupcakes in honor of her birthday in the James Brady Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, in this August 4, 2009 file photo. Thomas, under fire for controversial comments she made about Israel and Palestinians, announced her retirement on June 7, 2010.


U.S. President George W. Bush greets veteran reporter Helen Thomas (L) during a surprise visit to a briefing in the press briefing room of the White House in Washington in this August 2, 2006 file photo. Thomas, who has covered every U.S. president since John F. Kennedy, abruptly retired on June 7, 2010 amid a storm of criticism over her controversial remarks about Israel. Picture taken August 2, 2006.


White House correspondent Helen Thomas (2nd L) takes notes as former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson faces reporters during a news conference in the White House Oval Office, in this handout photograph taken on April 25, 1968 and obtained on June 7, 2010. Thomas announced her retirement on June 7, 2010 according to media reports.


Veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas is pictured as she departs the West Wing of the White House in Washington, July 27, 2009. Thomas, who has covered every U.S. president since John F. Kennedy, abruptly retired on Monday amid a storm of criticism over her controversial remarks about Israel. Picture taken July 27, 2009.

Iranian president says fuel-swap deal is an opportunity for US, its allies


June 8, 2010

(FOX NEWS / AP) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday a nuclear swap deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil is a one-time opportunity that should not be missed.

Ahmadinejad, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a security summit, also said new sanctions against his country would be a mistake and that U.S. President Barack Obama stands to lose unless he changes his policies toward Iran. He did not elaborate.

“The meeting in Tehran created an opportunity for the U.S. administration and for its allies and we still hope that they will be able to use this opportunity,” Ahmadinejad said of the nuclear swap deal that was reached in Tehran and that aims to address international concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. “We say that this opportunity will not be repeated.”

“Unless their policies change, Obama will be the first to lose, and then the U.S. government,” the Iranian president said.

Ahmadinejad was speaking days before the U.N. Security Council is expected to vote to punish Tehran for its refusal to heed demands to curb its nuclear program.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday singled out Iran for the first time as a “special case” because of suspicions it may be trying to make nuclear weapons. A senior Iranian envoy said Israel was the true threat to Mideast peace.

Under the nuclear swap deal, Iran would deposit 1,200 kilograms of lightly enriched uranium in Turkey. In exchange, Iran would get 120 kilograms of nuclear reactor fuel.

U.S. officials have criticized the agreement, in part because it does not stop Iran from continuing to enrich uranium. The U.S. also says the deal is a ploy by Iran to delay new international sanctions.

Turkey and Brazil, both non-permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, are now pressing for an open “political debate” on the broader Iranian nuclear issue before a vote on new sanctions.

Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful, aimed at producing nuclear energy, but the United States and its Western allies believe Tehran’s real goal is to produce atomic weapons.

“We say: peaceful nuclear for all, nuclear bombs for none,” Ahmadinejad said.

Japan PM Naoto Kan vows action on debt and US ties


June 8, 2010

(BBC) Japan’s incoming Prime Minister Naoto Kan has vowed to make the country more “vigorous”, tackle national debt and improve relations with the US.

Mr Kan was speaking before being sworn in to office by Emperor Akihito.

His appointment on Friday followed the abrupt resignation of Yukio Hatoyama.

Mr Kan earlier named his new cabinet, keeping 11 of the 17 ministers in place and appointing his former deputy Yoshihiko Noda as finance minister.

Mr Hatoyama stepped down last week, amid tensions over a controversial US military base on the island of Okinawa.

Mr Kan, the former finance minister, has assured President Barack Obama that he will relocate the base to the north of the island as agreed, despite anger from locals who want it moved off Okinawa entirely.

Despite the unpopular move, Mr Kan enjoys poll ratings above 60% as his Democratic Party (DPJ) faces an election for the upper house next month.

Traditional ceremony

In his televised remarks, Mr Kan said he wanted to “rehabilitate Japan drastically and create a vigorous country”.

He said the national debt – the largest debt of the industrialised world, at nearly twice the country’s economic output – should be “handled as the country’s biggest topic”.

“Rebuilding financial health is essential for Japan’s economy,” he said.

Mr Kan also pledged to restore the relationship with Washington, saying the Japan-US security alliance was the “cornerstone” of Tokyo’s politics.

He said he would honour the agreement reached with the US over the future of the the Futenma base on Okinawa, while seeking to “ease the burden for the people of Okinawa”.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Kan unveiled his new cabinet, which will be sworn in alongside him later.

As had been widely expected, he retained many top ministers, including Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.

Mr Noda, his former deputy finance minister and a fiscal conservative, will head the finance ministry.

Among the new faces in the cabinet is Renho, a popular television presenter who goes by one name.

The 42-year-old, known for her tough questioning of bureaucrats in debates over public spending, has been appointed minister of administrative reform.

Announcing the appointments, Yoshito Sengoku, the new chief cabinet secretary, said the ministers were “young, fresh and enthusiastic about their jobs”.

“Prime Minister Kan has appointed the ministers mindful of the need to form a government with professionalism, very clean politics and ability to govern,” he said.

Later in the day, the ministers will don ceremonial tuxedos and go to the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo to be formally sworn in.

Japanese newspapers have welcomed the “son of a salary man” to the post of prime minister, contrasting his ordinary background to the privileged roots of recent prime ministers.

On Monday, Mr Kan reshuffled the DJP party leadership.

He announced that Yukio Edano would take over as secretary general of the party, replacing the powerful Ichiro Ozawa, who stepped down last week.

Shinji Tarutoko, who challenged Mr Kan for the leadership, was named the DPJ’s parliamentary affairs chief.

Obama Looking for 'Ass to Kick' for Oil Spill


June 7: Obama meets with members of his Cabinet to discuss the response to BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington.

WASHINGTON June 8, 2010 (FOX NEWS) —  President Barack Obama said Monday he’s been talking closely to Gulf Coast fishermen and various experts on BP’s catastrophic oil spill not for lofty academic reasons but “so I know whose ass to kick.”

The salty words, part of Obama’s recent efforts to telegraph to Americans his engagement with the crisis, came in an interview in Michigan with NBC television’s “Today” show.

He strongly defended his role in dealing with the crisis that began with the April 20 explosion on a BP-leased oil rig in the Gulf, killing 11 workers.

“I was down there a month ago before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf,” Obama told NBC’s Matt Lauer. “I was meeting with fishermen in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be.”

Some have criticized the president for not engaging passionately enough on the spill, even though he’s been to the Gulf Coast three times since the disaster, his most recent visit on Friday.

Obama said he has talked to a variety of “experts” on the oil spill in addition to the fishermen.

“I talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers — so I know whose ass to kick,” the president said.

Obama was in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to speak to graduating high school students. NBC aired a portion of the interview on Monday evening in advance of Tuesday’s “Today” program.

Obama also launched a salvo at Tony Hayward, BP’s CEO, over some of his past comments, including saying at one point that “I want my life back” and that the Gulf was “a big ocean” and that “the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest.”

“He wouldn’t be working for me after any of those statements,” Obama said, according to excerpts released by NBC.

Earlier, Obama sought to reassure the nation that the Gulf Coast would “bounce back” from the worst oil spill in U.S. history, but not without time, effort and reimbursement from BP.

Surrounded by Cabinet members, Obama said that not only is he confident that the crisis will pass but also that the affected area “comes back even stronger than ever.”

The president and top federal officials were briefed on the government’s battle against the spill by Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is overseeing the government’s efforts in dealing with the tragedy.

Allen earlier Monday told reporters that a cap on the damaged oil well is now keeping up to 462,000 gallons (1.75 million liters) of oil a day from leaking into the Gulf. That’s up from about 441,000 gallons (1.67 million liters) on Saturday and about 250,000 gallons (946,000 liters) on Friday.

BP in a statement put the amount being captured at 466,200 gallons (1.76 million liters). Allen said the government was using its own flow-rate calculations and not relying on those from BP. He put the amount being captured at 11,000 42-gallon (159-liter) barrels, or 462,000 gallons (1.75 million liters).

“This will be contained,” Obama asserted. “It may take some time, and it’s going to take a whole lot of effort. There is going to be damage done to the Gulf Coast, and there is going to be economic damages that we’ve got to make sure BP is responsible for and compensates people for.”

Obama said that government scientists and other experts confirmed that the capping device “is beginning to capture some of the oil. We are still trying to make a better determination as to how much it is capturing.”

But, Obama added, “even if we are successful in containing some or much of the oil” the problem wouldn’t be solved until relief wells reach the area of the damaged well in several months.

“What is clear is that the economic impact of this disaster is going to be substantial and it is going to be ongoing,” Obama said.

“We also know that there’s already a lot of oil that’s been released, and that there’s going to be more oil released no matter how successful this containment effort is,” he added.

The president reiterated an appeal he made on Friday in the region that BP not “nickel and dime” Gulf coast residents and businesses that have filed claims against the London-based oil giant.

“`We are going to insist that money flow quickly and in a timely basis,” Obama said.

Allen acknowledged at Monday’s White House briefing that the company has struggled with handling claims.

He said we’d “like them to get better” at processing the claims and that a system for paying them should be “routinized” as soon as possible.

Statement by PM Netanyahu : “No Love Boat”


June 2, 2010

[Youtube] PM Netanyahu’s Response To U.N. No Weapons To Hamas

(PRIME MINISTER’s OFFICE)   Once again, Israel faces hypocrisy and a biased rush to judgment.  I’m afraid this isn’t the first time.

Last year, Israel acted to stop Hamas from firing thousands of rockets into Israel’s towns and cities.  Hamas was firing on our civilians while hiding behind civilians.  And Israel went to unprecedented lengths to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties.  Yet it was Israel, and not Hamas, that was accused by the UN of war crimes.

Now regrettably, the same thing appears to be happening now.

But here are the facts.  Hamas is smuggling thousands of Iranian rockets, missiles and other weaponry – smuggling it into Gaza in order to fire on Israel’s cities.  These missiles can reach Ashdod and Beer Sheva – these are major Israeli cities. And I regret to say that some of them can reach now Tel Aviv, and very soon, the outskirts of Jerusalem.  From the information we have, the planned shipments include weapons that can reach farther, even farther and deeper into Israel.

Under international law, and under common sense and common decency, Israel has every right to interdict this weaponry and to inspect the ships that might be transporting them.

This is not a theoretical challenge or a theoretical threat.  We have already interdicted vessels bound for Hezbollah, and for Hamas from Iran, containing hundreds of tons of weapons.  In one ship, the Francop, we found hundreds of tons of war materiel and weapons destined for Hezbollah.  In another celebrated case, the Karine A, dozens of tons of weapons were destined for Hamas by Iran via a shipment to Gaza.  Israel simply cannot permit the free flow of weapons and war materials to Hamas from the sea.


I will go further than that.  Israel cannot permit Iran to establish a Mediterranean port a few dozen kilometers from Tel Aviv and from Jerusalem.  And I would go beyond that too.  I say to the responsible leaders of all the nations: The international community cannot afford an Iranian port in the Mediterranean.  Fifteen years ago I cautioned about an Iranian development that has come to pass – people now recognize that danger.  Today I warn of this impending willingness to enable Iran to establish a naval port right next to Israel, right next to Europe.  The same countries that are criticizing us today should know that they will be targeted tomorrow.

For this and for many other reasons, we have a right to inspect cargo heading into Gaza.

And here’s our policy. It’s very simple:  Humanitarian and other goods can go in and weapons and war materiel cannot.
And we do let civilian goods into Gaza.  There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  Each week, an average of ten thousand tons of goods enter Gaza.  There’s no shortage of food. There’s no shortage of medicine.  There’s no shortage of other goods.

On this occasion too, we made several offers – offers to deliver the goods on board the flotilla to Gaza after a security inspection.  Egypt made similar offers.   And these offers were rejected time and again.


So our naval personnel had no choice but to board these vessels.  Now, on five of the vessels, our seamen were not met by any serious violence and as a result, there were no serious injuries aboard those ships.  But on the largest ship, something very different happened.

Our naval personnel, just as they landed on the ship – you can see this in the videos – the first soldier – they were met with a vicious mob. They were stabbed, they were clubbed, they were fired upon.  I talked to some of these soldiers.  One was shot in the stomach, one was shot in the knee. They were going to be killed and they had to act in self-defense.

It is very clear to us that the attackers had prepared their violent action in advance.  They were members of an extremist group that has supported international terrorist organizations and today support the terrorist organization called Hamas.  They brought with them in advance knives, steel rods, other weapons.  They chanted battle cries against the Jews.  You can hear this on the tapes that have been released.

This was not a love boat.  This was a hate boat.  These weren’t pacifists.  These weren’t peace activists.  These were violent supporters of terrorism.

I think that the evidence that the lives of the Israeli seamen were in danger is crystal clear. If you’re a fair-minded observer and you look at those videos, you know this simple truth.  But I regret to say that for many in the international community, no evidence is needed.  Israel is guilty until proven guilty.

Once again, Israel is told that it has a right to defend itself but is condemned every time it exercises that right. Now you know that a right that you cannot exercise is meaningless.  And you know that the way we exercise it – under these conditions of duress, under the rocketing of our cities, under the impending killing of our soldiers – you know that we exercise it in a way that is commensurate with any international standard.  I have spoken to leading leaders of the world, and I say the same thing today to the international community: What would you do?  How would you stop thousands of rockets that are destined to attack your cities, your civilians, your children? How would your soldiers behave under similar circumstances?  I think in your hearts, you all know the truth. 

Israel regrets the loss of life.   But we will never apologize for defending ourselves.  Israel has every right to prevent deadly weapons from entering into hostile territory.  And Israeli soldiers have every right to defend their lives and their country.

This may sound like an impossible plea, or an impossible request, or an impossible demand, but I make it anyway: Israel should not be held to a double standard.  The Jewish state has a right to defend itself just like any other state.

Thank you.

Prince Charles ill with chest infection



June 7, 2010

LONDON (AP) — Buckingham Palace says Prince Charles will take three days off next week to try to shake a persistent chest infection.

The Prince of Wales, who is the heir to the British throne, has been suffering from the infection for more than a month and doctors have advised him to take some time off.

Charles, 61, will miss the Royal Ascot horse race June 15 and a formal procession in Windsor that takes place the day before.

The palace said Monday that Charles would resume his official duties June 17.